STROUD MP Neil Carmichael has written to protest group Stroud Against the Cuts to inform them that he will not be signing a pledge to ‘Keep Gloucestershire’s NHS public’.

Mr Carmichael, who has faced repeated calls in recent weeks to sign up to the campaign, confirmed his decision in a letter sent to the chairman of SATC, James Beecher.

The Tory MP said he intended to stick to his "own commitment to protect frontline services always free at the point of delivery," and therefore did not see a need to put his name to the pledge, which calls for health services to remain within the NHS.

Reacting to Mr Carmichael’s decision, Caroline Molloy of SATC said: "By refusing to sign our pledge, we can only assume Mr Carmichael thinks it is acceptable for local NHS bosses to ride roughshod over the wishes of local people and for these services to be handed over to a private company."

In a letter to the SNJ last week, the Conservative Party politician stated his belief that it was likely NHS services would have to be put to tender as a result of 87-year-old Michael Lloyd’s legal challenge in February.

"It is becoming increasingly clear from both advice from the Department of Health and the Primary Care Trust that the outcome of the judicial review will inevitably require the PCT to advertise for expressions of interest and, if they are received, a competitive tender process will have to follow," he said.

If a tender process is initiated private sector companies would be able to bid to take over the running of health services but SATC say this scenario can be avoided.

James Beecher said: "SATC has been very open throughout about our legal advice, which is that services do not have to be offered to the private sector if an NHS body comes forward to run them."

Caroline Molloy of Stroud Against the Cuts added: "We want these services to stay in the NHS, publicly owned and accountable to all of us."

Mr Beecher also took issue with Mr Carmichael’s comments that the "Government is not cutting funding on the health service but has protected it, in real terms, from the spending reductions."

SATC’s chairman said: "Numbers of frontline health staff in Gloucestershire have dropped by nearly a quarter over the last 18 months alone."